Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Race Report: Rock'n'Roll Las Vegas Marathon

I'll just say upfront here that there were many well-documented issues with this race.  From my post, Twitter, and Rock'n'Roll's own Facebook page.  Since I've given my thoughts already, I'll focus on my race and only bring up the issues when necessary to further the story.

Rock'n'Roll Las Vegas Marathon

The Rock'n'Roll Las Vegas Marathon (RnRLV) appeared on my schedule back in June when my sister-in-law, Rebecca (TKB's brother's wife), told us that if she was to ever do a half marathon, this was the race.  It was VERY enticing.  Running the Las Vegas Strip at night?  How could anyone miss that opportunity!  It was truly the first of its kind in terms of size and glamour.  We had never been to Las Vegas in our adult form.  It was the perfect scenario!  Race?  Check.  Vacation?  Check.  Spending time with family? Check.  Well, as it turned out it was more of a perfect storm.

We arrived Thursday evening around 7pm local time (9pm KC time).  We went directly to the Luxor to checkin.  After dropping luggage off on our 5th floor room, we had dinner at one of the restaurants at the Luxor.  This started the constant inflow of water.  Travel always dehydrates me and I knew there would be lots of walking coming up, need to make sure the wheels are well greased.

I didn't have a lot of trouble sleeping, but I woke up at 5am local time (7am KC time) and just messed around on the computer chatting with other RnRLV twitter peeps until TKB woke up.  She started coming down with a cold earlier that week so she slept in a bit. We decided to try to make it up to the Expo and meet some of the folks on twitter but it takes so long to get anywhere in Vegas, we turned at around the Paris hotel and went back to the Luxor when Jake and Rebecca arrived.

But later that day...

we then walked back up to the Venetian with Jake and Rebecca for the Expo and Packet Pickup.  This was around 5pm on Friday and it really wasn't that bad.  I know there have been complaints about the Expo but we may have missed most of the rush since it was dinner time.  I bought some merch and ANOTHER pair of running shoes (I think I still have a post I need to publish on that... guess I need to add onto it).

Bibbity bibbity bop!  Yes, I'm kinda tall.  Yes, Rebecca is kinda short.
By Saturday my sleep schedule was pretty much normal.  After walking 6 - 7 miles on Friday, it was easy to get a full nights sleep.  We took it easy on Saturday and went through the Titanic exhibit at the Luxor and saw Cirque du Soleil: Ka at MGM Grand. Very cool show.  I wish we had time to see more of the Cirque performances while there. After Cirque we went up to the Paris hotel via taxi and found some food to eat.

Overall Nutrition
I tried to have a bottle of water in my hand the entire time and avoid alcohol and sodie pop.  I did have a couple beers at dinner Friday night but that was it until after the race. I tried to consume at least one carb loaded meal each day starting on Tuesday early in the week.

With the gun time at 4:00pm Sunday night, pre-race required some thought.  First was trying to be kind to the legs for the days leading up to the race.  Las Vegas requires a lot of walking to go anywhere and as Jake mentioned, it's the land of misdirection.  It's easy to get lost and have to retrace your steps in the casinos.  We took escalators and people movers whenever possible.

Well, not all the escalators were working.

I woke up around 8 o'clock and started to get ready for the day.  TKB's cold was really starting to hate on her so I went down and bought some water, Pumpkin Spice Latte (me), hot chocolate (TKB), and some lemon and pumpkin loafs at one of the THREE Starbucks in the Luxor (Yes, you can see one of the Starbucks from the line of the other).  She really rallied on Sunday to keep that cold at bay. She was quite a trooper!

While I missed the Tweetups, I did get in touch with @TriBeccaTO who I have been following since I started @ScottyTris.  So it was really cool to meet her for the first time, as well as @reflectiverunr, aka Jeff, (who I had to admit I wasn't following... until a few minutes later).  Becca and Jeff both have blogs too.  They were both in town to be spectators for the event, so cool!  We met up for lunch, which was simply a food court in the Fashion Show Mall.  What to eat was a hard decision!  Generally, four hours before a race I'm sleeping so I wasn't sure what to do, so I stuck with the familiar and had Subway.  We had some fun conversations and people watching while at the food court, it helped to ease the nerves!

Me, Becca, and Jeff! Fashion Show Place Mall.  Where twitter-ers unite!

We went back to the Luxor around 1pm where Jake and Rebecca were looking for lunch.  I decided to get ready and then went over to meet them so Rebecca and I could commiserate with our nerves.  

So much easier than triathlons!

While we were at their restaurant between the Luxor and Mandalay Bay I ate a banana and half of a bagel around 2:00pm.  This is roughly the same time I would eat those before a race anyway.  We went back to our rooms for a few minutes where I finished my race prep and then made the trek over to the starting line around 3:10pm.
Captain Orange!
The temperature was around 50 degrees but I wasn't cold.  We hit the first line of port-a-porties (stopped) and then walked over through to the family meeting areas and then anther line of port-a-poties (stopped again).  I said my goodbyes around 3:45pm and headed off to the corrals.  They did have small bottles of water available so I downed one with my 4 blueberry chomps.


Being tall does have its privileges.
I had no clue what to expect.  I've never been in a race with this many marathoners (6,000), let alone the entire race participant pool of 44,000.  Corrals were new to me.  I was in corral 6 but I simply targeted the 4:00 pace group (which was in corral 6).  That's 4 hour paced group, not 4 minute mile pace group.  Just for clarification.  Shortly after 4pm we were off!  I finally crossed the start at 4:09 as they staggered the corrals.  After a short distance we turned left to head off to the dessert!  Well, west Las Vegas.

Miles 1 - 6
Pretty easy moving.  There were a lot of people but plenty of room to run and maneuver.  There were a lot of turns during the first six miles.  I mean A LOT. 18 turns.  I did the best as possible to stay to the inside of the turn to keep from adding extra miles.  A couple times I misjudged and swung out left in preparation for a left turn but then realized it was a right turn.  A lot of this course was sort of a loop.  Some sections you ran back on and others you went around the block to back track.  It was cool seeing the elites running by as they returned on the road.

About mile 1 in people (ok, men) started peeling off the course to dump some extra payload.  I couldn't believe it.  For the full participants there were no lines at the port-a-poties.  I didn't count but there were probably 100 holes.

Physically I was doing awesome.  No knee issue and only slight discomfort on the bottom of my feet.  Cardio-wise my heart rate was in the 150s.  It was in the upper zone of my training range, which is just fine.  That's actually low for my racing zone.  I was keeping it there on purpose in case my legs decided to fall apart.  Around mile 2 I had already left the 4 hour pace group.

Around mile 4 I heard someone say "Olathe" during a conversation and I turned my head to find someone wearing a KC Marathon finishers shirt!  He was chatting with a female runner from KC. This wasn't really surprising as there were a good chunk of runners on our plane flights to and from KC.  We all chatted for a bit and then I broke off.  I'm pretty sure he was hitting on her during the race.  As much as I would have loved to hear that outcome, I was looking for the Strip to entertain me.  Off I went!

One Gu packet down at mile 5.  It tasted so good! 

Miles 6 - 13.1
12 more turns.  At this point I was taking water at each aid station and then realized something.  While I haven't trained with Cytomax I need to start taking it in.  There was no Gatorade or Powerade on this course and I was going to need those electrolytes.  

Mile 8 brought on the first of two aid stations with Gu. Now, this is when I start to get stupid.  I reached out for a Gu packet.  The guy had some trouble handing one to me and I ended up with two.  I had planned to consume 5 Gu packets during the race (one every five miles, even 25 to help aid recovery); therefore, I put 5 Gu packets on my race belt.  The stupid part is I didn't need to take a Gu packet at the aid station and I ended up with two.  So I then had to put them somewhere.  Putting Gu packets on race belts are not easy, especially on the run.  Yes, I could have dumped them on the ground but my triathlete blood wouldn't let me (no littering in triathlons).

While at mile 8 I decided see how I was doing in terms of catching up to the 3:55 pace group.  My body was still feeling great and I was willing to boost the speed.  Around mile 9.3 there is a turn around and I figured out I was a couple hundred yards away!  Sweet!  Thoughts of a PR started to enter my mind.  Granted, I sadly couldn't remember what my PR was.  Doh!

Somewhere about this time I started to think about Rebecca and that she was about to start her very first half marathon!!!

Photo of Rebecca... About to ROCK!

I had another Kansas City runner sighting as I come up to a runner wearing a KCMO Police shirt.  I would have said hello (and thanks) but he was jamming out to his tunes.  

I finally caught up to the 3:55 group.  I don't remember when I did, but I was definitely with them at mile 13.  

Miles 13.1 - 19
I hit the wall.  Yes, I know I said I was feeling great physically by taking in Gu/liquids as planned.  My heart rate was actually in the 140s (although I think I had some problems with the heart rate monitor reading low).  That wall?  It was a wall of 38,000 half participants being released for their race.  

Wow, oh wow.  We were informed via e-mail that there would be a full and half lane.  I had no clue where that was until I saw a cyclist yelling that full on the left and half on the right.  No chance.  There were just too many people to control.  I ended up bumping into someone walking the race and loosened my bandaid on my second to last toe on my left foot (I started having blister problems on that toe so I taped it) making me concerned about starting the blister again.  Just so you know, I did apologize as I went past. I was trying to be as polite as possible.  

The next 6 miles was simply bouncing around trying to find an opening.  As I mentioned in my previous post, even if all these people were in the correct corral, they were still moving 2 minutes per mile slower than my pace.  It was worse than when you start a crowded race and zig-zag around people to find an opening in the first half mile... but for 13.1 miles.  I was running on the sidewalk on the outside of the course cones, behind aid stations, around police cars, sprinting through openings.  It was nuts.  

The second half to the course isn't quite an out and back, there are a few more turns.  Because full participants were to stay on the sidewalk side of the street they couldn't take the tangents necessary; however, I said screw that.  I took the corners as I normally did but I returned to my lane as soon as possible.

Gu at mile 15 down without a problem.  The aid stations were a mess here.  They couldn't keep up.  Word is the water was from fire hydrants too.  I took Cytomax when I could find it... but it was hard to tell.  A few of the aid stations had ice in the cups.  Really?  Ice?  I'd rather have warm water than iced water.

As for my pace?  I lost the 3:55 group initially but caught back up with them and eventually broke off.  I had hoped that I was way ahead of them so I could possibly meet up with the 3:50 pace group but before I knew it, they were passing me.  It was just too hard to get that consistent open lane.

Miles 19 - 26
This is the section of a marathon where things typically start to fall apart.  Bolts start flying off the machine, shoes strip apart like they are in a wind tunnel, limbs are found on the curb.  Ok, not really but it can be bad.  Your mind plays games and you have to negotiate with it to see the next mile marker or light post.  In an odd switch-a-roo, having people to dodge like crazy helped me win this mental battle.

After mile 20 I decided to stop and stretch.  I took my 4th Gu and took off again. I didn't wait too long because I didn't want to lose my lead on the 3:55 group.  Everything was feeling pretty good.  My feet was having pains but I could tell it wasn't a blister or cuts.  It was simply in pain for taking the pounding.

I came up on the mile 22 aid station, the second station with Gu.  Because I was still dodging people and staying mostly on the sidewalks I was behind the aid station and reached for a Gu packet.  Remember, I was being dumb.  I only needed one more Gu packet and I was already + 2 packets from the first aid station.  I saw blueberry and then vanilla.  I then realized I had two handfuls of Gu packet (maybe 5).  WHAT WAS I DOING!  I didn't need these and I was being greedy.  Considering the vast amount of gels on these tables, I doubt I was causing a problem with these aid stations running out but I still feel bad.  So I ran with them in my hands for a while thinking I would drop them off at the next aid station.  

I ended up consuming one of them and putting the rest of them on my race belt.  (I think my guilt set in today as I ordered two full boxes of Gu packets.)  Eating that extra Gu packet was a bad idea as it did bug my stomach for a couple miles.  I guess it was redemption from the aid station fairy.

Before too long I looked up and saw the Mandalay Bay hotel.  The end was near!  I knew I still had a couple miles to go but the end was end sight!  At this point I changed my watch to show total race time and it was going to be close for me to PR.  I tried to finally take in the views of the strip too.  That was not possible for the trip north.

I was fairly surprised that I was actually able to pick up the pace during the last 10k, I was still sub-9 minute miles.  In my long runs I was slowing down a minute per mile or more at this point.  I guess my taper was well timed.

Miles 26 - 26.2
They had mile makers for the entire race but I was just assuming they left this one on the truck.  It took FOREVER.  Yes, I had my Garmin on but I didn't want to look at it.  I was expecting to see the finish where we started but instead you turn up a small hill and finish in the parking lot.  That's where I found the 26 mile marker.  385 yards to go!!

I crossed the finish line in 3 hours, 54 minutes, 49 seconds.  Missing my PR by 61 seconds.

Overall: 972 out of 3766
Gender: 755 out of 2380
Age Group: 153 out of 435

The battle scars are mental.
Now think of your a typical race.  What's the first thing you expect to after receiving your medal?  Someone handing you water, yogurt, bagel?  How about thousands of people waiting to get through the FINISHERS PHOTO?  They forced you through about 10 lines of finish line photos.  Fortunately I was far enough to the edge I could sneak around them and finally find water and then a bottle of Cytomax.  Food?  Green bananas, marathon bars, GoGurt, bagel, and pretzels.  Luckily I heard someone say "do you want a yellow banana" as she was opening a new bag and I grabbed one of those.

I had planned to hang in the finishers area and soak it all in but I then realized there was nothing to soak in other than thousands of other participant's sweat.  So I texted Tricia and we met up at the "K" sign.  (The "K" in TKB).  After she and Jake found me we decided to move back to the finish line and watch for Rebecca.  She was closing in on the end.  While there was maybe 1 full participant crossing the finish line every few seconds, there was probably 10 - 15 half participants.  We almost missed Rebecca finish but she looked strong!

First Half Marathon in the books!
Rebecca and I decided to get our medals engraved.  This is something I've been contemplating to do with all my medals, so I was fine with it... even unloading the $20 to have someone spend 5 seconds doing it.  Since there was a little bit of a wait, Jake and Tricia sent us inside because the temperature was low 40s at this point.  We were both shaking and the mylar blankets were being whipped up pretty badly by the wind.   It actually started to sprinkle after we made it inside Mandalay Bay.

Leaving the race site was horrible.  It took us probably an hour to get through the Mandalay Bay hotel.  Many people were fainting or getting sick.  The Fire Marshall would have had a field day with this and the medics racing in to help someone probably weren't to thrilled with it either.  Fortunately we didn't have to take a taxi or shuttle to another hotel.  We just had to cross through MB to Luxor.  I feel bad for some of the people who took 3+ hours to get to their hotel.  That was probably longer than it took for them to race!

The mess.  If anyone calls that number, let me know! :)

Yeah, I can tell you what the Fragrance of Las Vegas is while in the mess.

Further into the Mandalay Bay, close to an hour later.

Once we got back to our hotel room TKB helped me do something that is a necessary evil.  Stop thinking about that, you perverts.  This:

First of two trips to the hotel ice machine.

Unfortunately, I was too long for the bathtub but all the hurty bits got a nice 15 minute soak.. or about four Mumford & Son's songs.
The Breakdown
  • The Good
    • Running at night.  It wasn't just the spectacle of the strip but the new challenge it presented compared to a typical morning race.  Plus, you don't go home and take a nap, you go to bed!
    • Meeting a lot of neat people, from the plane flights to meeting people from Twitter.  I wish I could have attended some of the meet ups but it just didn't happen.  On the flight home I sat next to the third place 30 - 34 male age group athlete, who is from Kansas City, Dale Dexter.
    • Glow in the dark medal.  This is fairly unique.  When I got home I hung it from my bedside lamp.  When I woke up with leg pain, it made me giggle to see it hanging there glowing.  
    • Flat Course - If you can finish the first half in 1:30, then you can beat the half start and surely BQ (for men... and women, for that matter!)
  • The Bad
    • See my reflections
    • There were bands on this course?  I'm not complaining about the bands there were on the course. It actually made me giggle that there was a "death metal" band on the course.  I was kind of expecting to have more bands playing consistently on the course.
    • Dump the Cytomax and go with Gatorade/Powerade.  I probably should have stuck with my training regimen and brought my own drink or better planned for the Cytomax.
    • Some people did not get t-shirts at the expo.  HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?
    • They ran out of half medals.  Ok, this didn't impact me but it's inexcusable.  There were 33,000 finishers of the half with 38,000 registered.  
    • Ice in the water/cytomax.  dumb.
  • The Standard
    • Packet Pickup:  Smooth.  Decent expo. I purchased some fresh-off-the-line Mizuno Wave Inspire 8 at a good discount.  
    • Goodie Bag: T-Shirt, Gu Chomps (which I used pre-race), various flyers.  The best part being a running head lamp.  I could have used that four weeks prior.
    • Communication: 4 - 5 e-mails leading up to the race.  Good web site with lots of information.  Facebook page.  Problem?  They need to emphasize the key elements of this race, such as the half versus marathon lanes
    • Aid Stations: First 13.1 miles were OK but need better communication on where cytomax versus water was located.  Second 13.1 was simply a massive cluster.  It looked like a disaster area.  My advice?  Run behind the tables and pick up your drink.
    • Post-Race: Poorly designed layout.  I'm ok with the food options, but they need to make sure they can handle the number of participants.  Assume people will take more than one.... well, no green bananas.  
    • Port-a-Johns:  Sufficient but I wasn't there for the half start.  I know people were going into casinos when they couldn't wait any longer.  The port-a-potties on the full course we tucked away and hard to find but I managed to not need one the entire race.
    • Parking:  Don't know since we stayed in a hotel.  What I do know is there was a mess leaving the host hotel.
    • Volunteers: I'm always supportive of the volunteers and I think the volunteers were great here.  If there was an issue with a volunteer, it was because they weren't educated on how to handle scenarios.  
    • Route:  Closed to traffic.  Now if they could do a better job with managing the flow of participants.  Lower numbers and better corral management will definitely help.
The Proof
Our home for the four days.

Serious Athletes

Yeah.  I'm just really tall.  This happens a lot.

TKB decided to go for a stroll along the strip but she didn't bring her running clothes.  Oops.

Ironically, Rebecca did too.  Fortunately she picked up clothes at the expo.  She has a similar body type too.  Weird.

WATCH OUT!  Naked runner coming through!!

Yeah, I know what you are thinking.

Stairs?  Why are you taking stairs with all the escalators.

Nice shoes.
Game face!
There's a dude in my beer.
The Mess
This was the start of the half.  A big ole' cluster.


  1. I like your comment about littering. the first stand-alone running race I did, I carried the 3 cups I took from the aid stations because I didn't want to get a time penalty...

  2. Enjoyed your blog and pictures on your race. Gives me an inside look into your thinking. Sounds like you but a lot thought into how your body is feeling as you race. Congratulations on your finish!!! Love you, Mom